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Say Cheese!

By Beth A. Block


Our industry provides lots of opportunities to take photos: everything from the first class to private lessons, extra activities and rank promotions. Many of us have covered the photos we take in a photo release. If you haven’t already done this, I strongly suggest you add this to your enrollment form.

Most of us have not thought about the pictures our families take of their kids. Those pictures usually include other people’s kids. Our photo release doesn’t cover those pictures since we didn’t take them.

Every studio has children enrolled from single-parent homes. We get the enrollment form signed by that parent. Do you think about liability issues from the absent parent? One of your fellow studios was stuck in the middle of a dispute between parents over a picture.

A girl of seven years old was enrolled by Mom. The enrollment director had Mom complete all the paperwork. Mom indicated on the enrollment form that no pictures of the girl could be taken or used in the studio’s brochures or anywhere online.

The studio was very careful to make sure the girl’s picture was not taken. Mom would occasionally snap pictures of her own daughter. Nobody thought anything of it.

Mom had coached her daughter to turn her back on anyone taking a picture unless it was Mom herself. The girl had vigilantly followed those directions over the years.

Time passed and the student’s progression followed the ordinary track of rank promotion. She worked hard and advanced in her physical and mental mastery of the art. Mom was supportive and low-maintenance for the instructors.

The time for her black belt test was approaching. This studio included special prep classes for black belt candidates. Community service was also a requirement for advancement.

At the end of one afternoon of community service, another candidate’s family was snapping pictures of the group. The group had been serving homeless people in a food bank. The young girl was busy talking to a family with three children, so she didn’t see the smart phone in somebody’s hands.

A short two hours later, the picture was posted on Facebook. The other parent had put it on their own page. The parent was so proud of the humility their child had shown throughout the day.

Now the studio found out why Mom wouldn’t permit her daughter’s picture to be taken. The girl’s father held religious beliefs that prevented pictures being taken. Life with this man had become abusive so Mom had taken her daughter and run.

Although Dad didn’t believe in pictures, he did use facial recognition software to search for his ex-wife and daughter. Modern technology got him what he wanted. That picture taken by the other parent gave him the key to locating his daughter. Within a week the girl was gone. Dad had kidnapped her.

In her grief, Mom sued the studio. They had not stopped the girl’s picture from being posted on social media. This made its way through the courts

It turned out this studio was in a state that held them partially responsible. The studio was found to be negligent because they didn’t tell Mom that other parents might post her daughter’s picture. An attorney from your state will let you know if you can be held negligent this way.

Regardless of your state’s civil laws, it’s easy to add a sentence or two to your enrollment form. Those sentences would just be a simple statement of your inability to control other people’s pictures and social media postings. Not everyone wants to say cheese. We don’t always know why not.


Beth Block can be reached at (800) 225-0863 or [email protected].

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